A version of this article originally appeared in The Shooter’s Log on November 9, 2010. The author takes readers through a step-by-step instructional on how to convert a post-ban AK-47 to a pre-ban AK-4 using the example of a post-ban Egyptian Maadi, stamped steel receiver AK-47. The following article is a condensed version of the original. You can read the original article here.
Please note: Even though the federal assault weapons ban ended in 2004, some states do not allow “assault weapons.” Many of the pre-ban AK-47 aesthetics, such as a pistol grip are illegal in some states. Be absolutely sure your state allows ownership of a pre-ban AK-47 before converting your post-ban rifle. Further, follow all your local and state laws regarding magazine capacity restrictions.
Non-compliance with 922(r) may lead to federal charges and gun confiscation. If convicted, this means federal prison time. Do it right, or don’t do it at all!
Background and Title 18 U.S.C. 922(r)
In 1989, President George H.W. Bush banned the import of 43 types of semiautomatic firearms considered to have no “sporting” purpose. Included in the ban is the AK-47, UZI, FAL, FNC and HK91 rifles. Like the AWB signed by President Bill Clinton in 1994, the definition of “sporting” meant aesthetics as opposed to functionality of the firearm. Before the AWB, AK-47 clones that passed the criteria for sporting purposes were still imported. These rifles lacked a pistol grip, collapsible stock, no threaded muzzle and a 5- or 10-round magazine. To get around the ban, imported AK-47s came with large thumbhole fix stocks, no bayonet lug and a welded-on muzzle device. We consider semiautomatic rifles imported into the United States before March 14, 1989, grandfathered in and on the ban list as “pre-ban” rifles.
In 1990, Title 18 922(r), a law defining what parts were legal on imported rifles states
“Title 18 U.S.C., Chapter 44, Section 922 (r) No person shall assemble a semiautomatic rifle or any shotgun using more than 10 of the imported parts listed in paragraph (c) of this section if the assembled firearm is prohibited from importation under section 925(d)(3) as not being particularly suitable for or readily adaptable to sporting purposes.”
This law—still in effect today—lists 20 parts applicalbe to all imported semiautomatic rifles, not just the AK-47, that must comply. For the AK-47, the law applies to these 16 parts :
- Front and rear trunions (on stamped receivers only)
- Bolt carrier
- Gas piston
- Pistol grip
- Upper and lower handguards (count as one part)
- Muzzle device
- Magazine body
- Magazine follower
- Magazine floor plate
To convert your post-ban AK-47 into one that looks pre-ban, you may choose only a maximum of 10 imported parts. Meaning, you must have at least six parts made in the United States for your AK-47 to be legal and 922 (r) exempt. For a milled receiver, you may replace only five parts. To find out whether your AK is milled or stamped, read “AK-47 Receiver Identification: Milled vs. Stamped.”
This conversion might cost quite a few hundred dollars and a considerable amount of time. However, since Obama’s sanctions against Kalashnikov Concern, pre-ban AK-47s are selling for a premium. If you have an imported “sporting” AK, especially if it is an Egyptian Maadi, Bulgarian or a Yugo M-90, it will be worth the extra investment in the end. To cut your conversion costs down, you will want to select the smaller, less expensive parts. Here are our suggestions.
Fire Control Group
The fire control group consists of a hammer, trigger and disconnect0r. This counts as three parts—only three more to go! You have two choices—a single– or double-hook fire control group. The double-hook sets give you a more positive grip on the hammer and a smoother trigger let-off. Really made for milled receivers, with a little fitting you can get these double-hook fire control groups to work in a stamped receiver. It might just mean you need to open up the area around the trigger slot in the receiver with a small file.
One of the main parts of your post-ban AK you are itching to change is that fixed thumbhole stock. A stock set including the buttstock, pistol grip and handguard count as three more parts. However, if you chose a fixed or collapsible wood or synthetic buttstock only, you will still need to replace two more parts to be compliant with the law.
If you go with a side folder or imported East German crutch stock, you will still need to replace another part. Remember, if you add or leave one imported part on the rifle, you must replace an imported part with a U.S.-made part elsewhere. You may not have more than 10 imported parts on the post-ban AK-47. A U.S.-made gas piston, a muzzle device, magazine follower and magazine floor plate are all easy to replace parts.
With this set-up, we have actually installed eight U.S.-made parts on your post-ban AK-47. It is no big deal to have more than the enforced six—it gives you room to switch back to two imported parts later.
For a full description on how to install the fire control group, stock set, muzzle device, as well as giving your AK-47’s stock a refinishing, read the original article.